RAT: Paradigms

October 22, 2012 – 8:09 am

One of many posts on my Readiness Assessment. As a reminder of the ground rules, this is a solo assessment, so while I’m allowed to think out loud on my blog, I can’t ask for or get (intellectual) help. Cookies and emotional support are, however, welcome.

Posting a backlog from this weekend when I read and typed a ton of things, but did not have an internet connection to post it. (Gaps between posts today indicate things like “class” or “dance rehearsal” or “baking sweet potatoes.”) Today’s posts will be Qualitative Research Paradigms, Feminism as a Paradigm, More Things about Qualitative Research (possibly 2 posts), Postpositivism as a Paradigm, Validity, Narrative Analysis and Interviews (possibly 2 posts), Grounded Theory, RTR Research Questions, and (if I can get to it, and am not thoroughly exhausted by then) RTR as a Paradigm, followed by another iteration on the Giant Lit Review o’ Theory.

Anyway. Qualitative research paradigms time. I’ve liked this sentiment from The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research since I encountered it (my paraphrase):

P 210: Qualitative researchers are instruments, and as such, we must understand our changing selves.

My first bit of guidance on paradigms came in the form of old class discussion notes from my advanced qualitative research methods class. (Actually, the notes aren’t that old; May 16th of this year, only 6 months ago.)

Paradigms show up in (at least) 3 separate places in education research: teaching methodology, theoretical framework, and research methodology. You can be a Constructionist educator using a post-postivist research methodology to study your classroom, and cite a lot of critical theory in your literature review.

It’s a good mapping to my questions, actually — and cemented my desire to look at paradigms separately for each section of my RAT.

  • My first question, a lit review on the theories behind RTR, will draw from research that has a different, non-RTR-ish set of paradigms — the question is what their paradigms are.
  • My second question is starting to break into two parts: first, looking at the sorts of activities RTR might be applied to (the equivalent of “teaching methodology” in the class notes above), and then looking at the RTR-ish ways one might study them (the equivalent of “research methodology” in the class notes above). I feel a little uncomfortable making this distinction, because I see one of the Big Points of RTR being the blending of those boundaries — but I need to articulate the boundaries being blended, yes? So I shall try to struggle back and do that.
  • Third question: same as the second. In any case, there are 3 “slots” I’m trying to identify paradigms for — prior theoretical literature that informs RTR and activities that might have RTR applied to them (both of these are likely to be composed of blends of existing paradgims), and then the application of RTR itself as a paradigm for research.

Is that my argument? Is that how I want to position RTR — as a paradigm that fits in that sort of space, in that sort of relation to those other portions of a research setup? I’m not sure, but I won’t find out unless I try it.

The other part in terms of paradigms is “okay, if RTR’s a paradigm, you sould be able to articulate it as one, and describe how it relates to other paradigms.” Yes. Yes, I should. For this, my first stop was the motherlode, namely The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research — in particular, chapters 6 (competing paradigms in qualitative research) and 8 (paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences) were particularly helpful — though I might loop back to the library to crack open the whole book, and consider purchasing it myself for future reference. So what did I find?


Postpositivism Critical theory Constructivism
What is reality/truth? There is a “real” reality and truth, and we can find it – but only imperfectly, through experimental and mostly quantitative methodologies. Reality is shaped through history by various forces, and truth is mediated by subjectivity. Different groups may experience different truths, and we can uncover these truths in dialogue. Reality and truth are co-constructed, and you create them in dialogue.
What is the point of research? The point is to generate Knowledge, and validity is measured “conventionally” – by internal and external validity, and by objectivity and repeatability. We aim to transform the world and emancipate it; that’s the point of research. Valid research is honest and trustworthy and authentic.
Role of researcher? Written as a “disinterested scientist” – preserving objectivity is important. Subjectivity or researcher involvement “taints” the data. Researchers are no longer objective, but rather involved and transformative activists. Researchers are facilitators of the co-construction of knowledge by many voices.
Researcher background? The background of the researcher doesn’t matter as long as they are “trained” in the technique to be applied. Values and backgrounds of the researcher matter. Values and backgrounds of the researcher matter.

I tried writing a column for RTR, but I can’t yet. I think I need to go back and grab my readings on poststructuralism and dive into Patti Lather’s CV…

(17 minutes later)

Wait. Mel, Mel, Mel. Wait. What are you doing? You’re — you’re reading fascinating stuff down a rabbit hole that you’re planning to go down next semester. Not now, specifically not now, and your committee told you specifically not now. Stop reading 18 papers by Dr. Lather simultaneously. Stop. Also, sinking into Patti’s writing is doing interesting, twisty things to your brain (as poststructualism is wont to do) but you don’t know enough about how to handle it to be able to sink in and out of it at will, and you can’t get lost in that under this short a timeframe. (You’re already writing backstage in-between dance performances.)

You may read two papers that do not dive you into that sort of rabbit-hole: To Appear Other to Itself Anew: Response Data and Paradigm proliferation as a good thing to think with: teaching research in education as a wild profusion. You may read them in a moment, in another post, after you get done with the things that you were actually going to read.

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